A world of stone, iron and wood, where everything is just as it appears to be; there is not a veneer in sight, no artifice nor fiction present. This is a place where everything can safely be taken at face value, as authentic as the God it was built to serve.
The Cloisters on the Platte is a place where you can discover all you can be, shed all you once were and be made anew by the power of Silence, where God speaks.
There is only truth, rest, and the constant comforting embrace of our loving, Holy Father.
The buildings are works of art in themselves, using the finest materials, constructed in an old-world fashion, made to withstand the weight and ravages of centuries ahead. It boasts the best of man’s creative offerings in art and construct, but the awe-inspiring works of man’s hand isn’t really the Cloisters.
Yes, there are soaring arcs forming a shelter perfectly suited for worship and reflection. There are stone walls punctuated with dazzlingly bejeweled stained glass brought to life, miraculously transformed from the mundane into transcendent beauty by the kiss of sunlight.
Just as we ourselves are transformed by the Light of Christ, this erupting glory of incomparable beauty reminds us whose house we are in, not as guests, but as beloved children, co-heirs with Jesus, members of the Holy Family.
The place however is not the point. The craftsmanship and artistry are not the point, as stunning and remarkable as they are, these aren’t the objects of adoration, they are just humanity’s crude attempts to draw our mortal comprehension of God to a higher plane through an elevation of our surroundings.
They are a child’s art, fingerpainted for their Father as an expression of their love. They are like pictures for God to place on His refrigerator door.
Like those child-like representations, they aren’t the object themselves, but rather tools to remind us there is so much more beyond our reckoning, standing at arm’s length of our understanding.
As beautiful as our most inspired art and achievement may be, they are as nothing compared to that which God offers us as inheritance, the bequest of a Father to the children He loves beyond measure.
In Silence we abandon the fussiness and harangue of our modern, secular existence. Enveloped in Silence, we hear ourselves think, we encounter sounds of nature we once ignored, or simply never heard above the din of daily life.
In Silence, we go beyond just hearing and become listeners. In Silence, we can absorb all that surrounds us, permit the physical beauty of these astonishingly crafted facilities to turn our eyes upwards, to put us in the proper frame of mind to personally discover that our Father has been talking to us all along.
Our temporal world pretends to the throne of originality, boasting its magnificence as the penultimate expression of existence. It is indeed stunning, indicative of the grandeur of its maker, but it isn’t preeminent.
Our modern world derogates the spiritual to a place of limited importance, shunted to a corner until the day of the week we have appointed to dust it off and look at it a bit. No need to examine too closely though, it’ll be tossed back into the corner the moment a more alluring distraction comes along.
Here, at the Cloisters, that paradigm is rightfully upended. The spiritual world is back on its pedestal, having come before the temporal, indeed without which the temporal would have never come into being. We enter those limitless spaces of spirit through Silence, and we bathe in its nurturing whispers of perfection beyond comprehension.
We are temporal creatures with spiritual essence. We are far more connected to the latter than the former, which will pass away, subject as it is to the vagaries of time. This is what we lose among the clanging and buffeting of everyday life; the recognition that the temporal, about which we care so deeply and tend so carefully, is in truth, a distraction from that which we should guard with all of our being – our eternal nature.
Like the mind of man, which ceaselessly works to solve the problems of daily circumstance, ticking away in wake and sleep until it finally pounces on the answer, and delivers it to us in what we ignorant creatures describe as a “light bulb” moment, the spiritual plane is equally engaged in solving the eternal issues of our existence, those we have no hope of reckoning fully, absent the intervention of the Holy Spirit.
God, in His infinite wisdom, has permitted our dull brains to recognize the dire need for places like the Cloisters on the Platte. To sense more than the physical elements, which are indeed attractive beyond description, our Lord stirs in us a yearning to transcend our surroundings to live for a time in the realm of our Maker, in His Holy presence, informed by His Holy Silence.
I won’t use the word magical to describe what happens here, as that would be so lacking in accuracy as to constitute an insult. I don’t have a word for what happens here, if there is one, I cannot bring it to mind, so let it suffice to say, far beyond our existence lies a reality to which we are called; for which we were made, and for which our God has shed blood and died just to get us there.
It is here, during a Silent Retreat, practicing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius under the guidance and tutelage of Cloisters staff that I have been nearest to understanding what comes next. I have discovered I can catch a glimpse of it in the trusting eyes of a young child, in the loving gaze of a grandmother and the sacrificial devotion of those who love one another.
To realize all that is connected, no, it’s more accurate to say, all that is part of the same whole, is valuable beyond compare. Enter into Silence and emerge with precious knowledge. -30-